Thu Mar 3rd, 2011 at 08:29:18 AM EST
A comment by BruceMcF in geezer in Paris's diary The New Normal: A "Managed Decline"? explains how mainstream economics holds sway in American academia:
The mainstream economics is ... both very scientistic (scientific appearing, albeit not scientific in fact) with its heavily abused statistics and its arcane mathematical modeling, and very convenient to the status quo under normal conditions.
After all, under normal conditions, helping to understand the dramatic change coming and getting ready for it is not required of social theory ~ under normal conditions, it is far handier to have a strong bias for explaining why those with economic power should be allowed to do whatever they wish to do, by virtue of an economic theory which is blind to economic power.
And the supplanting of economic theory which arrived at inconvenient conclusions and replacing it with economic theory that arrived at more convenient conclusions started ...[via] strategies that accounted for its growing prominence through the 50's and 60's ~ tapping military and business sources of incomes to establish "economic analysis" units in PhD granting institutions which both funded the generation of the next generation of PhD's and also tilted the votes in academic departments in favor of the number crunchers.
A bias in your favor in both generation of new PhD's and hires of new PhD's means that over successive generations you shift the theoretical predisposition of young academics, who do the bulk of the work in peer review, and therefore tilt the degree of difficulty in getting different sorts of work published in the "top" journals.
which seems to mirror what a large group of French economists is saying. Not that economics teaching and research in France was "captured" as early as in the States, but the stranglehold appears almost as complete. An article by Christian Chavagneux in this month's Alternatives Economiques tells the story of a revolt:
|Du rififi chez les économistes français||Dustup among French economists - Christian Chavagneux - Alternatives Economiques|
|Pour caricaturer, disons que deux groupes s'opposent. D'un côté, les tenants de la science économique pure, pour qui le titre d'économiste ne peut être décerné qu'à ceux qui publient des articles en anglais dans des revues jugées de prestige et montrant une capacité à bâtir des modèles abstraits, à l'élégance mathématique reconnue. Dans leur épure, la réalité n'est bien souvent prise en compte que si elle confirme l'hypothèse selon laquelle les marchés obéissent en permanence à des forces équilibrantes, et, dans le cas contraire, comme une exception à la règle. De l'autre, ceux qui veulent tenir compte des rapports sociaux présents dans toute activité économique, qui n'hésitent pas à mobiliser l'histoire, la science politique ou la sociologie pour expliquer les phénomènes économiques et sont prompts à souligner la tendance des marchés à déraper.||By way of caricature, let's say two groups are facing off. On one side, the defenders of pure economic science, for whom the title of economist can only be conferred on those who publish papers in English in journals that are considered prestigious, and showing the capacity for building abstract models of recognized mathematical elegance. In their blueprint, reality is often taken into account insofar as it confirms the hypothesis that markets permanently obey forces tending to equilibrium, and, when it doesn't, as the exception that proves the rule. On the other side, those who take into account the social relations present in all economic activity, who do not hesitate to mobilise history, political science or sociology to explain economic phenomena, and are ready to emphasize the tendency of markets to go out of control.|
|Au cours des dernières décennies, les premiers ont gagné et il est devenu de plus en plus difficile de faire carrière si l'on ne suit pas les canons d'une science économique qui se rêve l'égale des sciences dures, alors qu'elle reste essentiellement prescriptive.||Over the last few decades, the former won, and it has become increasingly difficult to make a career if one doesn't subscribe to the canons of an economic science that fantasizes itself as equivalent to the hard sciences, although it's no more than essentially prescriptive.|
So, very roughly speaking, neoclassical economists versus institutionalists. For the latter, events since 2007 have shown the former to be detached from reality, and should have set off a chain reaction in French academia, opening opportunities for debate and critical expression, not to mention jobs and funding for those whose feet are so much more firmly on the ground. But that has not happened. Neoclassicals rule. Still.
So the critics have joined together in attack, creating an association called AFEP, Association française d'économie politique (French Political Economy Association). Their immediate target is the agrégation, a qualifying exam for university teaching, that they accuse of being a filter for selecting supporters of the dominant theory. The bigger target is the National Universities Council (CNU), Section 5 - which selects PhDs for post-doc teaching appointments and decides on promotions. In particular, the rebels consider that Section 5 favours neoclassicals in terms of career profile and salaries, and favours research (scientific or scientistic, you choose) over teaching. The system tends to produce minimal-presence, non-teaching theorists who spend their time at international symposia schmoozing with editors from the top journals, getting paid bonuses for publishing in same.
AFEP had already gathered 450 members by the beginning of this year. The conflict seems sharp with the "official" society, AFSE, Association française de science économique. Yet AFEP is very reasonably focusing its criticisms on the impossibility of scientific work where there is no room for divergent opinions. "We can't even evaluate each other's work," says one of the AFEP's founders. "There is no longer a scientific community of economists."